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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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45 Responses

  1. wasabi
    wasabi November 8, 2011 at 11:20 am |

    I am in MS and have been working against this through phone-banking and canvassing. For the last week or so I have seen comments on article crowing about “who cares? It’s just stupid MS.” This is why you should care. Because this is their endgame. They started in CO and intended to go to the remaining 48 states after MS. This isn’t something just MS thought up and we see all it takes is one bright spark to say “man that’s an awesome idea!” let’s make it a federal amendment.

  2. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil November 8, 2011 at 11:20 am |

    I’m just waiting for the tax guidance on claiming fertilized eggs on my tax return. But I guess my twin sister and I will need to start filing a single tax return?

  3. Florence
    Florence November 8, 2011 at 11:21 am |

    Nodding to the first comment on the MJ page:

    Call it what it really is. A Part-Time Personhood for Women Campaign.

  4. Echo Zen
    Echo Zen November 8, 2011 at 11:22 am |

    If this personhood amendment fails to pass in the most anti-choice state in America (next to South Dakota), it will send a message to anti-choicers at large that personhood won’t fly in any state. If this personhood amendment passes, it will be swiftly struck down by the courts as a flat-out violation of “Roe v. Wade” and of the Constitution… unless it heads to the Supreme Court, where the Catholic super-majority may choose to flatly rebuke science and common sense (as they did in “Gonzalez v. Carhart”) and overturn “Roe v. Wade.” If they do, they’ll provoke the fiercest pro-choice backlash in defence of reproductive rights that we’ll ever see in the history of America.

    In all three scenarios, women lose in the short run, but women’s rights prevail in the long run. We can only hope it doesn’t take the further subjugation of women’s bodily autonomy for that to happen.

  5. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil November 8, 2011 at 11:49 am |

    If this personhood amendment fails to pass in the most anti-choice state in America (next to South Dakota), it will send a message to anti-choicers at large that personhood won’t fly in any state.

    I was hoping 2 40-point losses in Colorado would have done this. But I guess not.

  6. suspect class
    suspect class November 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm |

    Thanks for this breakdown. The degree of extremism in the US these days is breathtaking; I can’t even believe this is subject to debate.

  7. LeftSidePositive
    LeftSidePositive November 8, 2011 at 12:19 pm |

    Can we also discuss another level of bullshit of this whole “personhood” thing–apart from the patent absurdity of a diploid cell being a person, can we also emphasize that being a “person” in no way negates the other person’s right to self-defense?

    There’s no doubt that a burglar is a person, but if one of them enters my house, I am well within my rights to shoot them to protect myself and my family. Or, the police have the authority to kill this invader if they can’t otherwise get him out of the house. So, why can I kill an actual, sentient living being threatening my HOUSE, but if a “person” is in my very BODY, I have to stand by and take it?

  8. figleaf
    figleaf November 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm |

    If it’s any consolation (it’s not much) I called someone at the PersonhoodUSA office the other day and, in the course of a big argument the guys said (very heatedly) that they’re not, not, not opposed to the pill. Hormonal EC yes, fertilization *prevention* no. (He said Catholics might believe that but his organization disagrees.)

    My argument, incidentally, was about whether or not environmentalists could use this new “personhood” business to rain manslaughter and negligent homicide charges on producers of pollution, pesticides, and industrial chemicals. (What kind of people tend to support “personhood” amendments? It ain’t environmentalists.)

    His position, like a lot of nominally “pro-life” people, was that you can’t really worry about that, that (presumably born) people die every day and they’re not proposing making that illegal.

    I said sure, but if a manufacturer or farmer failed to secure his tanker truck full of pesticides, and the truck rolled down a hill into a crowd and killed a bunch of people you wouldn’t say that was nature “taking its course.” And he agreed. And so, I asked, if a farmer sprays a tetragen and some fertilized egg fails to implant downwind then you have to hold the farmer responsible too. And he…

    He didn’t want to agree so he said (believe it or not)

    Well, it’s not illegal now.

    So I said, yes, but that’s because a fertilized egg isn’t considered a person now. But that that was the whole point of his (frickin’) enterprise, right?

    And he said er, um, yeah. And so if his law goes through then suddenly spraying or spewing upwind of any potential “person” stops being something that only annoys environmentalists and becomes something police and prosecutors are obliged to deal with.

    To his credit once he stopped struggling with the idea that environmental toxins shouldn’t a “pro-life” concern he agreed that in fact they probably should.

    My guess is that’ll go over like a lead balloon with his biggest donors. But I still say that a very, very good way to flank the majority who just want to control and immiserate women is to point out that in addition to dehumanizing women (fine with them) they’re also handing a loaded gun to the EPA, Greenpeace and other Limbaugh-fueled monsters under their beds.

    I like this post a lot, Jill. They really don’t understand what they’re trying to do, or just how far it can really be taken. They’d like to think it “only” affects women. It would be nice to disabuse them.

    Note: the fact that a PersonhoodUSA operative is amenable to the argument is ominous in the sense that he wasn’t deterred, but it’s encouraging in the sense that it’s a credible threat that can be brought to non-women. Conservative non-women. Women-hating non-women.

    figleaf

  9. Seth Eag
    Seth Eag November 8, 2011 at 1:09 pm |

    I’d like to echo what Echo Zen said. It may be a slightly nihilistic viewpoint, but isn’t it kind of…good if this law passes today? What I mean is that for the last decades the attack on reproductive freedom has largely been subtle and almost Orwellian (i.e forcing you to look at the ultrasound under the guise of “information”, etc.), but there’s nothing subtle about this, it essentially turns women and doctors into murderers who, I imagine, must then face the legal consequences of being murderers. A lot of women like my mother, sister, and various female friends support choice, but have never felt that the right to an abortion was actually being threatened enough to warrant any kind of action on their part. Couldn’t this be kind of a wake-up call? Just throwing it out there…

  10. Alexis
    Alexis November 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm |

    Wait, wait, hold the phone a second…does that wording in the House resolution permit for CLONING? You’re telling me that the GOP is okay with CLONING and not birth control? I GIVE UP.

  11. Echo Zen
    Echo Zen November 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm |

    Oh, theoretically we’ll be able to sue fetuses for trespassing. But we already know how the anti-choicers will justify banning women from filing lawsuits: “If women don’t want babies/zygotes inside them, they shouldn’t have sex! If women have sex, they’ve already waived their right to say no! You can’t sue your unborn baby/zygote — it hasn’t done anything wrong!” And given how shamelessly they’ve fought this year to give to rapists the right to force impregnated victims to bear their offspring, it’s clear that the notion of women having any rights whatsoever — medical, legal or even criminal — is anathema to them. When you’re dealing with a movement that believes laws against domestic violence are actually designed to “destroy marriage, promote abortion, and foster lesbianism,” you know there’s no point in compromise.

  12. Tim
    Tim November 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm |

    I think that some of the problems you mention could be solved by simply extending the constitutional protection to unfertilized eggs, and sperm, too. For one thing, it would be more gender-fair, since men would have to take better care of their sperm. They might still be permitted to masturbate, as long as they took are to properly freeze any ejaculate to sperm-bank standards and agree to maintain it in perpetuity. And of course that would apply to any that ended up in condoms. So at least the burden of compliance would not fall entirely on women. All the other issues would still apply. Think of the staggeringly astronomical population we would have! And the stupendous banks of supercomputers that would be needed to keep track of the “births” and “deaths”!

  13. suspect class
    suspect class November 8, 2011 at 1:55 pm |

    Alexis-my impression is not that they’re ok with cloning, but that they’re concerned about cloning happening without any legal guidelines around the purposes of cloning. But I’m not well-versed in this area, so if anyone has info on the pro-life pro-cloning contingent of the conservative movement, i’m happy to be corrected.

  14. anon commenter
    anon commenter November 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm |

    I don’t really know what to make of this post but anyway. Fact is that a fetus has inheritance rights in the US. Such rights date back to the Roman Empire. But somehow there has never been a lot discussion about the apparently very negative consequences these rights must have.

  15. jrockford
    jrockford November 8, 2011 at 2:39 pm |

    If a fertilized person becomes fertilized on U.S. soil, under the 14th Amendment does that person become a citizen if the “uterus holder” is “undocumented?” If so, can the uterus holder be deported while the fertilized citizen resides within?

  16. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable November 8, 2011 at 2:46 pm |

    Fascinating. I would say no as they are not a born person, and that part of the amendment requires a person born on US soil. BUT! Same amendment: “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.”

    So, are there going to be a ton more representatives in MS now?

  17. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable November 8, 2011 at 3:04 pm |

    anon commenter: Fact is that a fetus has inheritance rights in the US. Such rights date back to the Roman Empire

    Ah, Ancient US Roman history is always forgotten in these academic discussions.

  18. Hobbes
    Hobbes November 8, 2011 at 3:05 pm |

    When you’re dealing with a movement that believes laws against domestic violence are actually designed to “destroy marriage, promote abortion, and foster lesbianism,” you know there’s no point in compromise.

    Actually I feel like that’s something this personhood amendment could be argued to do – having only lesbian sex is a fantastic birth control method.

  19. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable November 8, 2011 at 3:05 pm |

    Also, citations please.

  20. Tina
    Tina November 8, 2011 at 3:59 pm |

    Another consequence of this bill is women who take other types of medication (not birth control) that may harm or cause an inhospitable environment for a fertilized or implanted egg, etc. So I guess those women either aren’t allowed to have sex with men or have to prove that there is no fertilized egg before they are allowed to take their medication? Amazing that a fertilized egg can take precedence over the health of a human being. Because really that’s what it is–not that the fertilized egg has equal rights but actually has more rights than a woman. Unbelievable.

  21. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza November 8, 2011 at 4:08 pm |

    LeftSidePositive:
    Can we also discuss another level of bullshit of this whole “personhood” thing–apart from the patent absurdity of a diploid cell being a person, can we also emphasize that being a “person” in no way negates the other person’s right to self-defense?

    There’s no doubt that a burglar is a person, but if one of them enters my house, I am well within my rights to shoot them to protect myself and my family. Or, the police have the authority to kill this invader if they can’t otherwise get him out of the house. So, why can I kill an actual, sentient living being threatening my HOUSE, but if a “person” is in my very BODY, I have to stand by and take it?

    This. Even if fetus is a person, it only means it’s illegally invading another person body that has (given, i assume, rather strict US property and privacy laws) right to use any means to remove unwanted presence. Like, abortion not limited in any way.

    In fact, this “great idea” can be used in any politically suitable way.

  22. Z S
    Z S November 8, 2011 at 4:22 pm |

    So if a woman commits a crime while a fertilized egg is (or may be) resident in her body, you can’t lock her up any more as it would be unconstitutional to the fertilized egg. I mean, you can’t lock up a child because its Dad took it along for the ride while he robbed a bank. Or lock up a conjoined twin because their twin punched someone. So you can’t put a fertilized egg in prison for a crime it didn’t commit. Also, you’re putting it in grown-up prison if the egg incubator is over 18, but it’s a juvenile, which isn’t allowed either. It is better to let 100 guilty women go free than see one innocent egg wrongfully imprisoned, right?

    LeftSidePositive – IANAL but my 0.02 is they would argue that having sex constitutes permission for the person to reside in you for up to 9 months. However for a contract to be valid, two conditions have to apply. An exchange of value must take place, and all signatories must be adults. So a fertilized egg, which is a minor, cannot sign a contract. And of course the sex itself necessarily takes place before the fertilized egg exists, which means at the moment of giving the verbal contract (that “yes, yes yes” you may shout at orgasm is suddenly so loaded isn’t it?), the other party is not only below legal age but not even alive, so it cannot be held to any legal contract at all. Also it is providing no value to its host, particularly in the case of a pregnancy that is dangerous, ergo no contract. If this amendment passes I would happily donate to the legal fund of any woman who takes this one to court. Abortion as self defense not only covers women, but also lets medical staff off the hook as they were only protecting someone who was under assault.

  23. Kyra
    Kyra November 8, 2011 at 4:51 pm |

    Sometimes I feel like half the political establishment would greatly enjoy the recreational activity of “let’s pick a random group of people and enable ourselves to put them in prison for innocuous activities they currently engage in.”

    It’s even profitable.

  24. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig November 8, 2011 at 5:47 pm |

    At this point, the only thing keeping me from scheduling a tubal ligation is that I can’t take any time off for recovery. I hate Republicans.

  25. preying mantis
    preying mantis November 8, 2011 at 5:55 pm |

    PrettyAmiable: Ah, Ancient US Roman history is always forgotten in these academic discussions.

    I’m not entirely sure what it has to do with anything, either. I mean, yes, if you die while one of your heirs is in utero, they do have inheritance rights. But the fetus’s inheritance rights are predicated on the idea of it eventually becoming a baby. The fetus isn’t cut in on the estate immediately, with its share going to its mother or half-siblings or whoever if the pregnancy results in a miscarriage or stillbirth.

  26. INotI
    INotI November 8, 2011 at 6:45 pm |

    Your country is pretty fucked up.

  27. DAS
    DAS November 8, 2011 at 7:01 pm |

    All of this discussion about the things that we will have to do to document the # of fertilized eggs and make sure the “death” any fertilized egg is properly documented and investigated if there is any question of foul play or even negligence assumes a level of concern about actual people that many on the right don’t actually seem to possess. Perhaps those so-called “pro-life” people who push for full personhood for even fertilized eggs really just don’t care as much about personhood in the first place? And who then really deserves to be called pro-life?

  28. Iam138
    Iam138 November 8, 2011 at 7:15 pm |

    Jill, I don’t think you understand. Facts do not exist, except in a relative way. Sure, YOU and “some others” say the things in your OP. But there are “conflicting opinions.”

    Seriously, what I don’t understand is how this law, or amendment to a state’s constitution, could possibly be constitutional under the U.S. Constitution. Does it even pass a reasonable basis test? Has Con Law changed so much since I was in law school, before Seminole Tribe, City of Richmond, and Thornburgh, before Bush v. Gore and Citizens United? Oh. I guess so.

  29. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig November 8, 2011 at 7:24 pm |

    Iam138: I think we’ve established that the Constituition doesn’t apply to *anything* anymore. Especially not the red states, some of which have already stated a desire to leave the US.

  30. Brian Schlosser
    Brian Schlosser November 8, 2011 at 8:29 pm |

    Tina:

    So I guess those women [...] aren’t allowed to have sex with men [Unless they pay the price]

    I fixed it for you. This is the end goal.

  31. Brian Schlosser
    Brian Schlosser November 8, 2011 at 8:33 pm |

    If I owned a fertility clinic in MS, I would count all 100,000 embryos in the freezer as dependent children on my tax return. After all, they are all people. How much would the tax refund be, I wonder? How many clinics would it take to bankrupt the state?

  32. Brian Schlosser
    Brian Schlosser November 8, 2011 at 8:53 pm |

    Upon further thought the end goal is actually more like:

    Brian Schlosser:
    Women aren’t allowed to have sex.

  33. JT
    JT November 8, 2011 at 8:54 pm |

    Being pro-choice and believing human life starts at fertilization are not mutually exclusive.

  34. Sandy
    Sandy November 8, 2011 at 9:31 pm |

    UNF, I love these hilarious mind-bending fucked-up scenarios y’all are pointing out. And here I thought there was nary a giggle to be had over this disgusting bullshit.

    You are all awesome. That is all.

  35. Poeschl
    Poeschl November 8, 2011 at 10:39 pm |

    AP at 10:36 PM EST reported MS rejected #26 by 58 to 42.

  36. chad
    chad November 8, 2011 at 10:41 pm |

    Great post. I find it very plausible that the courses of action that would be required of us if we came to believe that zygotes are persons are just absurd, and that this absurdity shows that no one should really believe that zygotes are persons. However, the paragraph about pregnant women being required not to do anything which increases the chance of a miscarriage seemed wrong to me. Even if every embryo were a person, not every such behavior would amount to negligence. Still, overall a very persuasive post.

    But I’m not persuaded by the claim that twins and the like cause serious troubles for the zygotes-as-persons view. After all, there are really weird puzzles about some unusual cases involving adults that are, on the assumption that zygotes are persons, similar to the twinning case. For example, some people have undergone split-brain surgeries with the very puzzling result that what we want commonsensically to call one person seems to end up with two “spheres of consciousness”. See, for example, this youtube clip, which is totally cool:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMLzP1VCANo

    If I thought that zygotes were persons, I’d say that whatever is puzzling about zygotes splitting is similarly puzzling about adults having “mind splits” of this sort. (Are “they” one person or two? Which one is the original person?) And, whatever we all end up saying about “mind splits” in adults seems to me what the zygotes-as-persons folks should say about twinning cases. Maybe I’m wrong, and I’m interested to hear what people think, but this seems to me like a puzzle for everyone, not just the people who think that zygotes are persons.

    Anyway, thanks for the great post.

  37. PeggyLuWho
    PeggyLuWho November 8, 2011 at 10:58 pm |

    If this passes, Mississippi will have gone from forced sterilization (eugenics) to forced pregnancy in less than half a century.

    Make up your mind, Mississippi! Do you want to oppress us one way or the other?

  38. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig November 8, 2011 at 11:01 pm |

    Poeschl: Are you sure?

  39. Echo Zen
    Echo Zen November 8, 2011 at 11:14 pm |

    Wow, I’m surprised it failed by a comfortable margin. And I was looking forward to the Supreme Court either throwing it out and explicitly reaffirming “Roe v. Wade,” or throwing out “Roe v. Wade” and peeving off millions of women who don’t believe fertilised eggs have more rights than they do: http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/story/2011-11-08/Mississippi-Abortion-Amendment/51129886/1

  40. Avida Quesada
    Avida Quesada November 9, 2011 at 6:24 am |

    Echo Zen:
    Wow,I’msurpriseditfailedbyacomfortablemargin.AndIwaslookingforwardtotheSupremeCourteitherthrowingitoutandexplicitlyreaffirming“Roev.Wade,”orthrowingout“Roev.Wade”andpeevingoffmillionsofwomenwhodon’tbelievefertilisedeggshavemorerightsthantheydo:http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/story/2011-11-08/Mississippi-Abortion-Amendment/51129886/1

    Now, this is good news.

  41. aftercoffee
    aftercoffee November 9, 2011 at 7:43 am |

    Endgame: a fetus’ life is constitutionally protected, a worker’s life is not; women are evil murderers, corporations are good people and legally exempt from liability. Sounds medievsl, as though the Catholic Church has been selling forgiveness again.

  42. Tina
    Tina November 9, 2011 at 9:35 am |

    Kyra:
    Sometimes I feel like half the political establishment would greatly enjoy the recreational activity of “let’s pick a random group of people and enable ourselves to put them in prison for innocuous activities they currently engage in.”

    It’s even profitable.

    This has been done and done. See: black people and marijuana.

  43. DouglasG
    DouglasG November 9, 2011 at 10:20 am |

    Thank you for this post. I was wondering how Congress would deal with representational concerns. While I am glad the measure didn’t pass, it would have been interesting to see what would have happened had the increase in population been enough in one census to impact the House.

  44. Thomas: Aborting Reason - The Samford Crimson | Clone Post

    [...] begin?CNN (blog)Mississippi: Religious extremists try redefining 'personhood'Examiner.comCommon Sense Time.Feministe (blog)Uprisingall 28 news articles »Get more results from Google news Posted [...]

  45. William
    William November 10, 2011 at 10:01 am |

    Seems to me that District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago would open up a pretty strong 2nd and 14th amendment argument for abortion under the constitutional right of self defense. If you’ve got a constitutional right to empty a magazine of .45ACP hollow points into an intruder based on a reasonable fear that your safety was in danger regardless of the intruder’s state of mind I can’t imagine you wouldn’t have a right to prevent someone from taking up residence in your body against your consent, much less the right to protect yourself against the birth process itself.

    If a fetus is a person then an unwanted pregnancy is sexual assault, involuntary servitude, and aggravated battery.

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